LUXURY IS NOT FOR ALL

16/06/2013

Luxury is not for All– WOW! Look at that Lamborghini! And another one! And there’s Rolls-Royce! Oh my God! How can people live like this?! In all this luxury?! I really need to start earning lots of money and move in here!

These were some of the exclamations of my friend, an entrepreneur from Moldova, who had walked beside me along the streets of Monte Carlo, a small district of a not much bigger country of Monaco. Together with several more young businessmen from Moldova we visited it in May – June 2013 in order to attend a European conference and participate in a social business plan competition with our global movement of makers creating and multiplying sustainable solutions Dreamups. Ultimately we won the grand prize, but this is not the point of this post.

2013.06.01 - Moldovan Delegation in Monte CarloThe point here is that almost all people around me were extremely excited about all the splendour and wealth of Monte Carlo. They were following each fancy car on the road and yacht at the sea with large hungry eyes. They were dreaming of getting at least a piece of this splendour for themselves.

But not me.

Of course, I was observing all the rich businessmen, ladies in expensive dresses, luxury cars, fancy shops, castle-like villas and other elements of wealthy lifestyle around me. However, I was not attracted and excited by them. Instead I was making fun of some of my friends getting envy of all the rich things and people they had seen there. This was because I have different values, attitude to life and perception of wellbeing and personal happiness.

For me the Nature, being together with it and researching its mysteries is the apogee of happiness and satisfaction. Therefore instead of lingering my eyesight on man-made objects, like my companions did, I admired the diverse species of plants and animals in many green areas of Monte Carlo, the rocky top of Mont Agel above the city and the blue Mediterranean Sea washing the shore called the French Riviera or Cote D’Azur. From this point of view the district appeared as quite a nice place to spend some time – the natural landscape was very impressive. Although I would not like to live here permanently, I was quite happy that I had visited this place.

2013.05.29 - Happy to Visit Monte Carlo– What?! You would not like to live in Monte Carlo?! Are you crazy? – You may exclaim.

Well, yes. I may be considered “crazy”, but my personal preference for a residential environment is totally different from such a rich and fancy place as Monte Carlo. I see myself living and working in more natural surroundings: in a small house near a forest, in a research laboratory on an island at the shore of an ocean… or even in a lab at the bottom of the ocean. Why?

Because this is where I can explore the beauty and wisdom of the Nature.

Because this is where I am closer to the natural environment and can contribute much better to its conservation.

Because this is where I can fully release my creativity and write poems and novels in silence and peace.

Because this is where I am truly happy.

This is Where I am Truly HappyTo conclude, luxury can be attractive and desired. It can be the measure of an individual’s social status and satisfaction. It can be something that many people strive to obtain and enjoy. However, everything is relative in our World.

And so, luxury is not for all.

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TRAVEL!

09/01/2013

Travel!Travel, my friend!

Travel to learn about new places.

Of course, you can do it by reading a lot of books and travel magazines with beautiful pictures in them. But reading about these places while sitting in a comfortable chair at home and actually experiencing them, surviving in them, adapting to them, and finally enjoying them is definitely not the same. You learn much… much more when you go out of your cosy comfort zone and jump right into the foreign environment.

Before my trip to South Africa I thought, like most Europeans, that all Africa is kind of the same: hot, wild and poor. Well, it’s not. Cape Town, which I was lucky to visit in November 2012, is quite developed due to tourist industry. And in Stellenbosch, where I participated in a conference, there are a lot of luxurious wine farms.

2012.11.22 - Cape Town - View from Above2012.11.22 - Cape Town - Flower FieldAnd due to that trip to South Africa I found out that there are squirrels in Africa. Before it I thought that these animals are indigenous only to Eurasia and the Americas. But no, I saw many squirrels in the parks of Cape Town. Yes, I agree, this sounds a bit silly: “What did you see in Africa: giraffes, elephants, lions…?” – “No, just some squirrels”. Still, that was more or less a discovery.

2012.11.22 - Cape Town - SquirrelAnd it looks like not only I was surprised with the presence of squirrels on the African continent.

2012.11.22 - Cape Town - Squirrel and TouristsTravel to admire the diverse beauty of the Nature.

It is true, that you can see different plants in a botanical garden and various exotic animals in a zoo in your city. But again, this is not the same as observing these plants and animals in their natural habitats. Because only there they show their true behaviour and character.

In South Africa I saw not only squirrels. Together with some friends we travelled to Boulders Beach and observed the colony of African penguins relaxing on sandy beach.

2012.11.22 - Boulders - Colony of African Penguins2012.11.22 - Boulders - African PenguinAnd afterwards we visited the Addo Elephant National Park, where ostriches, warthogs, zebras, elephants, lions and other animals were roaming around freely.

2012.11.24 - Addo Elephant National Park - Warthog2012.11.24 - Addo Elephant National Park - Zebra2012.11.24 - Addo Elephant National Park - Elephant2012.11.24 - Addo Elephant National Park - LionOf course, the most exciting moments of our South African safari were observing a family of elephants and a male lion right outside our car without any cage or fence.

2012.11.24 - Addo Elephant National Park - Elephants Outside

Travel to taste exotic food and do unusual activities.

You will never understand what foreign food tastes like and what a certain activity is about until you try them. You can take a cookbook and try preparing the food yourself, but there is a risk you will not find the necessary ingredients, and the meal will not taste like the original one. The same with activities – you can watch bungee jumping or diving with sharks many times on TV, but you will not get the same experience and adrenaline as with the real thing.

The exotic food in Africa for me was the Ethiopian cuisine we stumbled upon in Cape Town. And the most adventurous activity for us became driving across the African wilderness in the night on a gravel road in a car that is not suitable for such motor rally.

2012.11.22 - Cape Town - Ethiopian Cuisine2012.11.22 - Cape Town - Enjoying Ethiopian FoodTravel to meet interesting people with different culture and mindset.

Last but not least, travelling is the most certain way to meet people from foreign countries, from different cultures and with various worldviews. And these meetings can be the foundations of the great and long-lasting friendship that will give you even more travelling opportunities.

During the conference in South Africa I managed to meet many interesting people, both from the African continent and other parts of the World. With some of them we went around the country afterwards and visited Cape Town and Table Mountain, Mossel Bay, Grahamstown and other interesting places. As you can judge by the photos of this blog post, that was a spectacular journey.

By the way, the trip to this country was made possible mostly thanks to Brigitte, whom I met at a conference in Germany a year before and who invited me to the one in South Africa. I am very grateful to her for that, as well as to all friends, who made that trip an amazing and memorable one.

2012.11.22 - New FriendsSo, I advise you to travel, my friend. And I ask you to do it in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. Try not to use greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting means of transport; restrain your consumption of meat; generate as few waste as possible, especially the hazardous one (batteries, chemicals, etc.); do not cause harm to indigenous flora and fauna, particularly to the rare and unique species; and so on.

In August – November 2012 I was a very “bad boy”: I took flights to Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Denmark, Germany and South Africa, in this way contributing to a lot of GHG emissions.

Travelling in August - November 2012Some of it I managed to offset through my contribution to climate change mitigation in the Ungaran region in Indonesia (you can read about it in “INDONESIAN VILLAGES AND CLIMATE CHANGE”). And nowadays I do more research and campaigning aimed at protecting the environment to compensate for my environmental footprint during the travelling.

What else is left to say here? I suppose the best conclusion for all this is the well-known quote:

Travel Makes You RicherHappy travelling!


INDONESIAN VILLAGES AND CLIMATE CHANGE

23/10/2012

Earlier on this blog I wrote about some of the adventures during my internship in the city Semarang in Indonesia. But I mentioned only slightly what I had been doing in this country. So, here I want to shed some more light on my tasks and activities in the country of many islands, vast forests and rich biodiversity.

My internship took place in the environmental organization BINTARI, which is involved in the climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in the upstream watershed of the Garang river. It helps the local rural communities reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by introducing and supporting agroforestry, compost and biogas production and education on the climate change issue.

My task during the internship had been to estimate the past, present and future GHG emissions from animal husbandry sector in the Indrokilo village, which is situated on the slope of the Ungaran mountain near the city Semarang in Central Java, and suggest the optimal strategies and initiatives for the village community to reduce these emissions. My results, strategies and recommendations were meant to be used by the community, BINTARI and the Indonesian government to design and implement more efficient climate change mitigation actions in Indrokilo and other villages, which were part of the recently initiated national program “1000 Kampung Iklim” (“1000 Climate Villages”).

As this was the first research on GHG emissions in Indrokilo and there was no necessary data about it available, I had to travel to the village and interview some of its residents. So, together with Mas Nuro we did two visits to the Ungaran region and Indrokilo, talked with some community leaders and observed the GHG emissions reduction initiatives in action. These were short, but quite interesting expeditions.

Firstly, we went deep into the forest on the Ungaran mountain to see how farmers there plant trees as part of the agroforestry program. This yields double benefits: the farmers can harvest coffee and fruits from these trees, and the trees capture carbon from the atmosphere.

As a result, the amount of trees increases and the forest carbon sink grows larger, allowing more carbon to be removed from the atmosphere:

After that we went to interview some leaders of the village community. All people we talked with were quite friendly and open, though they did not have the detailed information needed for precise estimation of GHG emissions (which had been expected, of course). Nevertheless, we spent a very nice time with them drinking locally produced tea and sharing with each other stories about life in Indonesia and Moldova. I have reasons to believe that I was the first one from Moldova they had seen in their whole life.

And at one family I even tried preparing special food for the local wedding ceremony. Mas Nuro explained me that men do such activity for several hours during the day. I was quite sweaty already after several minutes:

Some villagers took us to the local biogas and compost production facilities and showed and explained us how they make biogas for cooking and compost to apply as organic fertilizer on the fields from animal manure. As I am a member of the founding team of DreamUPS – an opensource platform for sustainable do-it-yourself solutions – I used this opportunity to make a video about compost production for our free virtual library of sustainable ideas and write an article about Indrokilo on our blog. You can check the compost production solution HERE and the “climate village” story HERE.

Finally, Mas Nuro and his friend from Indrokilo took me to the local waterfall deep in the forest. The road here was rather long, steep and tiring in the hot climate of Indonesia (the daily temperature stays around +30 oC during the whole year):

However, the trip was worth it – the waterfall was small, but still impressive.

Of course, I did not want to miss the opportunity and took a quick shower under the chilly and fresh waters falling from the edge of the rock above. In the hot and dry atmosphere this was extremely refreshing and revitalizing… especially when I found out that for some local people having shower in this waterfall is part of some sacred ceremony (although in this case they do it totally naked).

So, these were the adventures during my visits to the Indrokilo village. Upon returning to the BINTARI office, I used the information obtained from the villagers to calculate methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from livestock at the study site, suggested strategies and further actions to be implemented there and elaborated the final research report, which was then submitted to BINTARI.

All in all, I consider the official side of my internship in Indonesia to be a success.

And for this I am very grateful to Mas Nuro and the BINTARI Foundation for giving me the opportunity to explore some of the Indonesian villages and climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives there.


THE LAND OF THRIVING LIFE

04/10/2012

In the first post about my internship in Semarang, Indonesia, “INTO THE INCREDIBLE INDONESIA” I mentioned that Indonesia is the second richest in biodiversity (after Brazil) country in the World. And you do not need to go deep into the country to verify this statement. Just get into one of the forests that cover more about 60% of Indonesia’s territory, and you will find yourself among many different species of deciduous trees, palm trees, ferns and other plants. Insects and birds will fill in the air between the trunks of different shapes and sizes. And if you dig the soil, you may discover so many fat larvae of the palm beetle that you can quickly fill in a small bucket with them.

Actually, you do not need to go and search for biodiversity in Indonesia; it will find you and come to you. Different butterflies, wasps, beetles and birds will meet you on the way to your residence in the country. And there you will never be alone – ants of various sizes and agile geckos, which easily climb the walls hunting for mosquitoes and other insects, will accompany you during the stay.

Sometimes a large black cockroach will run across your room disturbed by you turning on the light. Or a grey fat frog the size and shape almost of a tennis ball will jump to your chair while you sit in a café, look at you thoughtfully and then slowly and melancholically jump away into the darkness of the evening, which is filled with chirping, snorting and smacking of various representatives of the Indonesian fauna.

And in the morning most probably you will be greeted by a relatively large and gracious lizard with an extremely long tail. It will sit calmly absorbing the morning sunrays and looking at you without any fear. Only if you touch it impertinently, the lizard will run away for a meter or two and then stop and look back at you with indignation against such rudeness.

All this I had experienced during just the first two weeks of my stay in Indonesia. And I have a whole month ahead to spend here. So, I expect many more interesting creatures to meet in this truly “Land of Thriving Life”.

And as a passionate biologist and ecologist I am very happy about that.


THE ADVENTURES HAVE BEGUN

28/09/2012

In the previous post “INTO THE INCREDIBLE INDONESIA” I wrote about preparations for an internship in Semarang in Central Java, Indonesia. And now I am finally enjoying it!

The adventures though began even before the trip there. In the evening right before the departure I managed to hit hardly the joint of my right hand. So, during the whole following trip I had to try being left-handed.

Then there was the 15-hours sitting in airplanes with transfer in Moscow in the Russian Federation and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Although tiring, the flights were quite comfortable with much delicious food served. However, the adventures met me also in the middle of one of the flights: somewhere above the Indian Ocean on the way from Abu Dhabi to Jakarta one of the passengers felt very badly. As far as I understood from talking to a stewardess, there was a question of life and death. In these circumstances, the pilot decided to turn the plane back and land at Abu Dhabi. I believe it was a wise decision.

At the Abu Dhabi International Airport we were transferred to another flight, which took off and consequently landed about 7 hours after the scheduled time. Of course, due to this delay I missed the preliminary booked flight from Jakarta and Semarang. Therefore I had to spend a night at the Jakarta International Airport watching movies on my laptop together with mosquitoes and cockroaches, which were quite a few there.

The next day I managed to buy another ticket and finally arrived to Semarang. But one more surprise awaited me there: the host family, where I had supposed to be staying, had gone somewhere and could not host me anymore. Still, I did get a place to live – at the room of a friend of one of the local AIESEC members. This young Lady turned out to be very nice, kind, caring and responsible. We have already explored some streets and corners of Semarang on her scooter (which is a common means of transport here), went to a night party and tasted Indonesian food (that almost burned my throat and stomach as it is very spicy).

I also met the members of the local committee of AIESEC in Semarang. They seem to be very energetic, receptive and friendly young people. And at the welcome party with them I got to know that although I am the first intern from Moldova, I am not the only one here – there are people from Germany, Japan, Romania, Russia and other countries doing eXchange in Semarang through AIESEC nowadays. Hopefully we will organize something together in the nearest future.

Last but not least, I got to know my internship place – the local environmental organization BINTARI. Nowadays I have the office, the person to work with and report to and soon will receive my first tasks.

So, here I am – in the city of Semarang on the island of Java in the country Indonesia. I have already experienced many pleasant and not so pleasant moments. But the real adventures are still ahead.


INTO THE INCREDIBLE INDONESIA

17/09/2012

Invitation, visa, medical insurance, flight ticket, luggage… Yes, I am preparing for another eXchange!

In 2010 in the blog post “HERE WE GO AGAIN!” I wrote about my decision to take a second internship through AIESEC. And after 2 years I finally did it. This time it is going to be 1,5 months of the incredible Indonesia.

The Republic of Indonesia is situated on an archipelago of more than 17500 islands of different size. It is on the 4th place in the world by population with approximately 230 mln people residing there. Jakarta, the capital city, has about 10 mln residents. I will be living most of the time in the nearby city Semarang having 1,3 mln citizens.

Now the interesting part. Firstly, as the country is situated on the islands within the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”, frequent earthquakes and sometimes volcano eruptions are experienced there. Secondly, on the majority of islands outside Bali and Java malaria is prevalent. It is a relief that there was no case of a trainee being infected so far (maybe I will be the first one?). And finally, there are terrorists blowing things up now and then. But luckily, recent years were quite calm and peaceful.

It is quite an interesting and adventurous place I am going to, isn’t it? However, these are not the things that make my blood bubbling. It is the fact that Indonesia has the second highest (after Brazil) level of biodiversity in the World. This is a true paradise for such a nature-loving environmental scientist as I am.

Moreover, during the internship I will be working with the local environmental organization BINTARI on projects related to waste management and environmental education. This experience should bring valuable input for the 2 waste management projects I contribute to these days.

So, let the exotic adventures begin!